Types of Acetate

Acetates are used to make film.
Acetates are used to make film. (Image: Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

An acetate, also called an ethanoate, is a salt or an ester of acetic acid. An ester is a salt formed from the reaction of an organic acid with an alcohol. The word "acetate" is also used to refer to fibers derived from cellulose acetate and to discs used in music production which are composed of cellulose acetate. There are many different types of acetates with a variety of uses and industrial applications.

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Ethyl Acetate

Ethyl acetate is an ester that is formed by reacting ethanol with acetic acid. It is a colorless liquid with a sweet, fruity smell. It is formed naturally as a byproduct of the fermentation of wine and some fruits; it can also be created synthetically in a lab by the Fischer esterification method in the presence of a strong acid catalyst. Ethyl acetate has a wide variety of uses, including as a preservative, as a decaffeinating agent for tea and coffee, as a solvent, in cosmetic manufacture, as a paint hardener and in confectionery and perfume.

Methyl Acetate

Methyl acetate is a colorless liquid with a mild odor that is produced from the reaction of methanol with acetic acid; its chemical formula is CH3COOCH3. It is an extremely volatile solvent and is widely used in the perfume industry. It is capable of dissolving a wide variety of organic compounds including cellulose acetate, polyvinyl acetate, resins and most oils and fats. Due to its volatility and solvent properties, it is used in the manufacture of paint, film, dyes and lacquers.

Polyvinyl Acetate

Polyvinyl acetate is a vinyl polymer created by free radical polymerization of vinyl acetate. Polymerization is a process whereby many smaller molecules are joined together to create a very large network of molecules known as a polymer. Polyvinyl acetate is a thermoplastic, and is also commonly known as wood glue or Elmer’s glue. It is used to form a film in latex and emulsion paints and as an adhesive.

Cellulose Acetate

Cellulose acetate is created by reacting cellulose with acetic acid and acetic anhydride along with sulphuric acid. It is subjected to further processing to remove the sulphates and the resulting product is dissolved in acetone. This produces long, fine filaments which are used to make synthetic fabric. The acetate fiber is use in cigarette manufacture as well as to make clothing, furniture, fittings, accessories and upholstery.


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